Eventually, everyone closes the door to his/her office for the last time. While circumstances will vary—retirement, a new job, a career change—there is no denying that a day will come when you no longer routinely rise in the morning and head to your familiar office at the practice. With any luck, the final click of your door closing will signal the end of a long, successful career that brought personal and professional joy, meaning, and fulfillment to your life. While physically exiting the building one last time will be emotional, hopefully you will be happy with what you leave behind—a robust and enduring legacy.

Building a Legacy

How will you be remembered after you walk out the practice door for the last time? Will you be a legend or a forgotten footnote? Years from now, will practice personnel remember you as dynamic and irreplaceable or with a shoulder shrug and indifference? To leave a positive and meaningful legacy that contributes to practice success for years to come, it is important to develop a specific set of skills and abilities.

Here are five attributes commonly shared by leaders who eventually become legends.

1. Be a Compassionate Leader

Be a thoughtful, caring, and transparent leader on a daily basis, and that is how you will be remembered. Work is about people, especially the people you live and work with everyday. Outside of family and close friends, your coworkers likely are the most important people in your life. You certainly will spend a great deal of time with them over a career. While you will make unpopular decisions from your leadership position, it is possible to compassionately consider the impact your decisions have on individuals.

If you develop, manage, and nurture relationships with coworkers that are consistent, honest, and trust-based, you will be remembered positively long after you are gone.

2. Think Strategically

To enhance your status in the practice, hone your ability to identify, collect, analyze, and interpret important data that allows you to meaningfully contribute to short- and long-term planning. Tactical and deliberate thinking is a talent that results in better overall decision-making and best positions a practice for sustained success. While specific day-to-day details and tactics will change out of necessity, the realization that comprehensive and regular strategic planning is a mandatory achievement factor will keep everyone actively looking for solutions and ways to reach best-practice status.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE

Don’t worry too much if legacy thoughts are popping up late in your career—when dramatic change (i.e., retirement) is clearly on the horizon and there is little time to significantly impact the ultimate outcome or adjust course.

Most successful administrators have been hard at work—albeit subconsciously—building a legacy throughout their career. The fact you are enjoying a lengthy career is proof enough that what you are doing is being well received and that your legacy will be one in which you can take pride.

3. Embrace Change

Understanding that change is good—and using it to your advantage to better the practice—will make you a respected and valued leader. Being reluctant or hesitant to accept change allows others to take the wheel and drive (sink?) the ship. Once timidity is exhibited and control is relinquished, it is difficult to regain.

Change is inevitable and today’s medical arena is clearly in the eye of a hurricane of uncertainty. That spells opportunity to a legend. While a status quo-approach may be safe in the moment, the ability to embrace change, accept a certain level of risk, and assume a leadership role will elevate a practice—and its leaders—to a place atop the local market. Visionary leaders regularly use their experience, insight, and knowledge to analyze and anticipate potential change and strategically plan for success in that envisioned environment. They take calculated risks. The key word is calculated. Legends take risks that have high success probability, but that also include exit strategies to minimize damage from a risk gone wrong.

4. Share Your Knowledge

To be remembered and revered, seek out every opportunity to mentor and coach. Pass along everything you know and then some. Share your experience and what you learned. Identify bright and willing candidates and take them under your wing. Let them know you are available to spend time grooming them to be the future practice leaders.

You no doubt had mentors, supporters, and coaches along the way, and you recognize and understand what an impact they had on your career. Now it is your turn to share knowledge and shape the future. By helping form the future, you will be ensuring the past (you) will not be easily forgotten.

5. Build a Better Mousetrap

Building better operational systems and processes that result in outstanding patient care is the stuff of legends. So is taking time to inspire and develop a practice culture that results in a happy, dedicated, and hardworking staff. As the middleman between staff and management, you exert a great deal of control over how the practice spends any surplus resources (i.e., time, money, and human resources). Look to the future and invest in making the practice as efficient as possible for patients and as satisfying and rewarding as possible for staff.

Finish with Pride

As your career winds down and your legacy takes its final shape, make sure you work to the final buzzer. Don’t leave anything hanging. Complete all tasks that require your effort and expertise. Tie up all those loose ends.

Don’t dwell on any regrets or disappointments you might have—they’ll pass. Instead, focus on your successes and how you are leaving the practice in a better place than when you were hired … and that’s what your coworkers will remember. n

Read past installments of Business Advisor online anytime at PracticalDermatology.com.

Allan Walker is director of publication services for BSM Consulting, located at the Incline Village, NV, office. In this position, he coordinates, plans, and produces a full range of client media projects ranging from written materials to electronic, Internet-based programs. His responsibilities include conceptualization, organization, design, and layout of various communication and learning products and services, such as newsletters, marketing/advertising tools, electronic learning courses, reports, training manuals, brochures, forms, seminar handouts, slide presentations, and other materials. Additionally, he provides staff oversight and project management. His writings have appeared in Administrative Eyecare, Ophthalmic Professional, Ophthalmology Management, Strategies for Success, Dermatology Business Management, Practical Dermatology, Modern Aesthetics, Practical Neurology, Resource Management, Refractive Business Advisor, and other professional journals. He is author of the book titled “Ten Eyecare Practices: Benchmarks for Success” and is a contributing editor for Administrative Eyecare magazine.

Mr. Walker is experienced in all areas of publishing, including editing and reporting, composition, design, typography, layout, advertising, and related marketing. He has vast knowledge of patient and staff education programs and materials.